Classical music

Why this première felt important: James MacMillan’s Fifth Symphony reviewed

24 August 2019 9:00 am

All symphonies were sacred symphonies, once. Haydn began each day’s composition with a prayer, and ended every score with the…

Bracing and provocative – but would Wagner have approved? Arcola's Rheingold reviewed

10 August 2019 9:00 am

When it comes to the opening of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Mark Twain probably put it as well as anyone: ‘Out…

A sonic masterclass: the Silesian String Quartet at Wigmore Hall reviewed

20 July 2019 9:00 am

Of all the daft notions about the classical music business, the daftest is that it’s a business at all. Seriously:…

Testosterone and passion: Royal Opera’s Marriage of Figaro reviewed

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Another turn around the block for David McVicar’s handsome 1830s Figaro at the Royal Opera — the sixth since the…

Easily the best thing I’ve seen at the Grange Festival: Falstaff reviewed

15 June 2019 9:00 am

‘Tutto nel mondo e burla’ sings the company at the end of Verdi’s Falstaff — ‘All the world’s a joke’…

The composer sir Michael Tippett. Credit: Erich Auerbach/ Stringer

This concert proves it is time to take Michael Tippett seriously

11 May 2019 9:00 am

In Oliver Soden’s new biography of Michael Tippett, he describes how Tippett wanted to open his Fourth Symphony with the…

Richard Ayres' The Garden at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Image: © Mark Allan

Hearing Gilbert & Sullivan on period instruments was a revelation

27 April 2019 9:00 am

‘I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all,’ wrote Stravinsky in one…

Mark Tully, presenter of Something Understood, in New Delhi in 2015. Image: Shivam Saxena/ Hindustan Times/ Getty Images

Why was Something Understood cut?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

It was never given the choicest slot in the schedule, airing first thing on Sunday morning with a repeat at…

The early death of Lili Boulanger is the most grievous of all among composers

20 April 2019 9:00 am

Total immersion weekends can prove tricky. The established masters don’t need them, while lesser-known figures often turn out to be…

Why did Parry's Judith vanish?

13 April 2019 9:00 am

‘When a man takes it upon himself to write an oratorio — perhaps the most gratuitous exploit open to a…

Aurora Orchestra's Brexit concert nearly turned me into a Leaver

6 April 2019 9:00 am

Back when the UK was assumed to be leaving the European Union on 29 March, the Aurora Orchestra was invited…

The fall of Daniel Barenboim

23 March 2019 9:00 am

A few years ago, I hooked up with a BBC team in Berlin to record a programme with Daniel Barenboim.…

Scala Radio is a real threat to Radio 2

14 March 2019 9:00 am

It’s not surprising given the way that electronic communication has taken over so much of our daily business, minimising human…

Sarah Tynan, Nicholas Lester and Andrew Shore in ENO's new Merry Widow. Photo: Clive Barda

Cringingly vulgar, brainless and lacking heart: ENO’s Merry Widow reviewed

9 March 2019 9:00 am

Garrick Ohlsson is one of the finest pianists of his generation. Why, then, was the Wigmore Hall not much more…

Left: cartoon of Hector Berlioz published in the Wiener Theaterzeitung in 1846. Right: the composer in 1863, aged 59

David Cairns explains how we learned to love Berlioz

2 March 2019 9:00 am

For a century the visionary composer was seen as a freak, but finally, 150 years after his death, his time has come

Opera North's Rite of Spring shows the advantages of confining the music to the pit

2 March 2019 9:00 am

It was Stravinsky himself who suggested that, in order to preserve its difficulty, the opening bassoon solo of The Rite…

World-class: Symphony Orchestra of India in its tropical Barbican in Mumbai

Meet India's first – and only – professional western orchestra

16 February 2019 9:00 am

Ahead of its first ever UK tour, Richard Bratby meets the trio behind India’s first – and only – professional western orchestra

King's College Choir rehearsing for the Christmas Eve 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols'. Photo credit: Geoff Robinson Photography / REX / Shutterstock

All hail Mrs C.F. Alexander, author of 'Once in Royal David's City'

15 December 2018 9:00 am

In this 200th anniversary of the birth of Mrs C.F. Alexander, author of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, all of…

It's Christmas. You don't want Götterdämmerung. You want a waltz-operetta

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Grade: A– 1898: two Parisiennes and a housemaid secretly invite each other’s partners to the Paris Opera ball and… c’mon,…

RLPO and the NDR Radiophilharmonie performing Britten's War Requiem in Liverpool Cathedral. Photo: Liverpool Philharmonic / Mark McNulty

Britten’s War Requiem almost sounded like a masterpiece – but it isn’t, is it?

17 November 2018 9:00 am

‘What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?’ We’ve heard a lot, lately, of the knell that tolls through the…

A major modernist hiding in plain sight: composer Ennio Morricone at 91

‘Darmstadt taught me how to compose’: Ennio Morricone interviewed

27 October 2018 9:00 am

For all his commercial success, Ennio Morricone is a modernist of uncompromising seriousness, as Richard Bratby finds out

Wilhelm Furtwängler shaking hands with Hitler after a concert in 1939. Photo: Ullstein Bild/ Getty Images

The truth about Wilhelm Furtwängler

20 October 2018 9:00 am

The morning after the first night of Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides in May 1995, I received a call from Otto…

Kirill Petrenko conducting the Berlin Philharmonic at the 2018 Proms. Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

The gentle side of Bruckner: Rotterdam Philharmonic's Prom reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The lady behind me on Kensington Gore clearly felt that she owed her friend an apology: ‘It’s Bruckner. I don’t…

Jozsefs Lendvai and Lendvay with Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Proms. Image: BBC/Chris Christodoulos

The Budapest Festival Orchestra makes other orchestras look routine and oafish

1 September 2018 9:00 am

Looney Tunes was always at its best when soundtracked by a Hungarian gypsy dance. (Watch ‘Pigs in a Polka’ if…

An exalted experience even without a convincing central character: Siegfried in Edinburgh reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

There’s one big problem with Wagner’s Siegfried, and the clue’s in the name. None of Wagner’s mature works hangs so…